• Capulin Volcano National Monument by J. Unruh

    Capulin Volcano

    National Monument New Mexico


Capulin Volcano prairie


Capulin Volcano National Monument lies within the transition from the high elevations of the Rocky Mountains to the sweeping grasslands of the Great Plains. The slopes of the volcano are primarily pinyon/juniper woodlands and the lower plains are shortgrass and mixed grass prairie.

Species lists and information are available on the forest and prairie ecosystem pages.




Life on the monument began not with grasses or trees, but with an essential life form that created a hospitable landscape at Capulin for other organisms to grow. Lichens are a partnership of fungi and algae that attach themselves and grow on impossible surfaces - including bare rock. Capulin's cinder cone is composed of igneous rock, which has and continues to be slowly broken down by the lichen's release of weak acids, creating soil. Lichens are impressive in their ability to live in extreme conditions from deserts, to the arctic, to high elevations.

Did You Know?

Color photograph by David Umbach of lizard peeking over edge of rock.

Lizards and other reptiles need to warm up in the sun. Visitors to Capulin Volcano often see lizards scurry into rock crevices when startled.